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“Human beings are complex emotional configurations. There is no perfect form, ideal type, or one structure that is better than any other. The shapes seen … are the consequences of human attempts to love and be loved. They represent the fulfillment or the betrayal of individual attempts to be human, to have control, to be cooperative. Shape also represents the immediate present, how we view the world and try to interact with it for contact, intimacy, and accomplishment.” Stanley Kelleman.
Tension has become a bad word. It is a physical negative that we want to change in our body. However, tension is necessary to our structures. Our bodies are what is known as a tensegrity system, which means the bones are spacers and the muscles are balancing and moving those spaces. A certain amount of tension is required to keep the structure in integrity. To be upright, adaptable, and flexible. Picture a suspension bridge. If its support lines are strung too tightly, the bridge won’t be able to maintain balance and resilience during a storm, for instance. Our bodies run on the same model: bones, muscles, organs and spaces are all parts of the system holding us up, together, and balanced. The body requires a certain amount of tension to be upright and achieve the tasks we want to. The integrity of the structure is derived from the balance of each component.
Because we are the complex individuals that Kelleman describes, the events of our lives can affect our natural tension in ways that become unhelpful to the entire system. For example, in situations that might stop digestion (deadlines, family upset, anniversaries) the heaviness of the intestine will pull on the lumbar vertebrae, often causing low-back pain. Conversely, low back pain, which may stem from over-wrought hamstrings, can block digestion. So often the shoulders will be a tell-tale of how we are experiencing an uncomfortable situation; they might pull up or in, or might recruit the jaw into the response pattern, ending in a headache or migraine.
Sadly, the body doesn’t just recover from these situations and return to ease and balance automatically, and the effects of that build up. If we just keep getting tighter and tighter, we won’t be able to do what we need to in our lives; there has to be some capacity for release and relaxation. Our physicality must be able to expand and contract like the suspension bridge. If unaddressed, the changes can be exponential, and the next innocuous game of tennis, or lift of a child, becomes the breaking point.
Being aware of how the natural tension works in our bodies, as well as the effects on that natural tension, is so important. If we don’t know that an occasion is going to produce certain physical effects, and then don’t know how to undo that list of symptoms, the entire system will ultimately be affected. We need to understand the chain of events that happens in the body to successfully unwind the effects and recover balance. Again, there is no perfect form and yet there is an inherent, known balance for each individual system. Tension, physical and emotional, is a part of being in a live system that is constantly responding and calibrating internal and external pressures. At Studio Evolve, we combined the Pilates, Gyrotonic®, and SPRe® bodywork to help recover your emotional and physical tensegrity system.
It’s the season to express gratitude by giving and receiving nourishment; it is Thanksgiving. The territory of nourishment and its resulting impact on each of us is as profound and variable as our experience of love itself! Nourishment is expressed directly through nutrition and it includes from whom or what we received the nutrition. The empty calories filling our stores promise something desirable for us, but they don’t deliver; food given by parents without attunement results in the same lack of nourishment.
Water is the source of life and yet so often we can’t drink it without going through a process to make it potable. Even something good for us, can be bad in the wrong context. A gourmet meal might feel less nourishing when offered with contempt while a simple sandwich offered with attunement will feel complete and sating. Discounting the chaos and tumult inherent in family, what were the predominant feelings that came with food?
Digestive issues ranging from annoying to chronic are often symptoms of how food and love were mismatched. Who provided us nourishment, and how it was done was imprinted on our nervous system: the quality of the caregiver’s touch; their feeling state or temperament; whether the nourishment met our individual needs as children or was offered without regard to authentic hunger.
The choices we make as adults speak volumes about our experiences with care and the provision of nourishment. Alternately binging and starving ourselves, eating unhealthy foods – as reward or punishment – followed by negative self-talk meant to inspire us to get to the gym or eat kale – excessive exercising, and stringent cleanses in an effort to clean by association those who didn’t “get clean” for us.
Nourishment that was not loving will show in the toxic rewards we give to ourselves and to negligible self-care and is an unconscious effort to repeatedly communicate the original experience.
Love needs no translation, no intellectualization, or transmutation – It is love. It is represented in words and actions and always felt. No matter what brings us to a therapeutic process, the territory must include self-care and exploration of how we received nourishment and learned to care for ourselves.
So, here is a holiday that asks for us to give and receive thanks by way of nourishment. From conception of the meal, to preparing the kitchen for the event, in the labor of the creation, to the delivery of the meal to the table and those who are receiving its nourishment, please be curious about who you are being in each of these moments. They will consume you or they will nourish you.
(Love doesn’t meet caloric requirements, and meeting caloric requirements doesn’t mean love. We may wish to intellectualize our experiences of love, and contort our beliefs by naming as love what we received and provide to ourselves. However the truth will be evident in our actions.)
We are not always able to quickly recover from terrible things that happened to us, or let them go. They enter into and begin to negatively influence our bodies and our lives. Whether by accident or by design, we were the recipient of something over which we had little or no control, either because we were too young, or in the wrong place at the wrong time, or it seems like bad luck. Choices were made for us, insults were perpetrated on us, and injury was done. It’s not our fault that our bodies respond to these events through unnecessary tension, pain, and disease. However, if we don’t want to be the walking wounds that prove again and again what happened, we are responsible to recover ourselves.
We are all born with a blueprint to grow into our authentic self. The blueprint offers the most comfortable relationship with gravity as well as efficient movement potential. Sometimes as children, we are prevented from developing into the potential our blueprint offers. We are co-opted and shaped either according to our environment or to someone else’s needs and requirements. We are conned into another form before we have a chance to form ourselves as we might or should have been. Adults in our lives may have conspired to form us to meet a need or plan of their own, or match the shape they have adopted to move through the world. These directions can be explicit and verbal, but are more often unconscious, subtle, and unspoken, although no less potent and altering.